The I-5 Corridor strikes back
Some thoughts after spending 8 hours stuck in a Portland snowstorm
It was deep into Hour 6 of sitting in gridlock right beneath the OHSU Skytram on I-5 last night that the anger and blame set in.
This was supposed to be a quick trip, right? Two hours down for a 30 minute interview, two hours back. I’d even be able to let the dog out at a reasonable hour. However, the 11-inches of snow Portland received in the time I left my house up until the time that traffic came to a standstill of idling trucks and ditched cars had other plans.
This was all Nate Krueger’s fault.
See, Nate is the football SID at Oregon and earlier this month I texted him about a potential sit-down with Bo Nix for an offseason profile. A couple weeks later he checked back in:
“You want to do this in person or on the phone?”
Well, if he’s giving me the option I’m taking in person.
“Would Wednesday at 2 p.m. work?”
It’s no secret that weather was supposed to be bad on Wednesday. The local news stations/sites had been running previews of snow coverage for days. Of course, most of the time that leads to a little dusting and a lot of clicks. And when I texted Nate Wednesday morning to check in, things were looking pretty good outside of a few flakes.
The weather OK down there? We’re just starting to get some snow up here but it’s not bad yet.
“Yeah, it’s fine here.”
I got to Eugene an hour early — which, if you ask any other Oregon beat writer, they’ll tell you that’s notable for me — and then had a great chat with Nix about what in the world he thinks about being in Eugene, Oregon in February of 2023. No one saw that one coming, right?
I left Eugene northbound around 2:45 p.m. and a brisk 95 miles went by with no snow, no rain and only thoughts of how I might go about assembling the Nix story as soon as I got home.
The first signs of snow came in Wilsonville. And by 4:30 p.m. everything had stopped right around the Terwilliger exit — or, as The O’s Bill Oram let me know numerous times throughout the night, just a quick ditched car and walk from his house.
But I was unimpressed.
The Corridor didn’t like that. The snow really started to pour.
Cars were inching forward enough, though, to let you believe there was hope. But it’s the hope that hurts the most. I managed to get down around the south waterfront, passing by abandoned cars like an episode of the “Last of Us” until things completely shut down sandwiched between a few semis beneath the tram.
Did you know the tram travels a horizontal distance of 3,300 feet and a vertical distance of 500 feet and takes about three minutes?
Sounds pretty damn efficient to me.
As I rationed the last of my gas station cheese croissant and listened to others honking their horns into oblivion, I felt awfully lucky that I actually filled my gas tank all the way up that morning. Look, things are going OK here at the Corridor, but saying the words “Could you fill it with regular?” is usually preceded by a quick look at the bank account.
Others weren’t as fortunate, which is where things get legitimately scary. There were school busses out there. There were elderly. There were AAA vehicles trying to assist cars on northbound I-5 by coming down southbound I-5, parking on the shoulder then trying to find their proverbial needle in a haystack.
Things were getting pretty greasy for my hockey teammate Ryan, a few miles behind me:
At around 10 p.m., I started turning into a masochist. Remember that 2016 Portland snowstorm? The one that turned Highway 26 into an absolute ice rink? Friend of the Corridor Jeff Smith was stuck in that one for 8 hours. Might as well go for the record, right?
The next few hours weren’t bad. A few tweets were gaining traction and I’m vain enough to revel in making a state of emergency about myself, plus I got a chuckle out of the numerous people pointing out the irony of me being stuck on the I-5 Corridor.
Anyways, at about midnight I was able to maneuver through the traffic lined up to get onto the 405 parking lot, escape to the I-5 exit and found nothing but smooth sailing and a few more ditched smart cars along the way.
I walked into my house at 12:45 a.m., grabbed a beer from the fridge and looked out into the backyard at what this Alaskan deems a respectable amount of snow.
Writing Bo can wait a few days, I thought.
— Tyson Alger
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It’s always Nate’s fault
Alaska never truly leaves you!